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Facing desperation

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A short story on what happened to me during a playthrough early on when I was still getting to know the game.




It's winter, I survived so far. I've been stocking up on wood and food, two things crucial to live through winter. The wood is for a fire I need to keep warm and for light at night (else I'm a goner).

I just made a trip down south to a place in the woods I stumbled on earlier on. It's paved in stone with 4 marble pillars standing and has a mechanical rhino of some sort and some other weird creatures. They are hostile, but the rhino will chase you down and mow down the trees in its path. A much faster and easier way to collect logs than chopping down trees manually. (Not to mention the odd chance you'll chop away at this Lord-of-the-Ring style tree creature, who doesn't appreciate the gesture, to put it mildly.)

I return successfully from the trip with a backpack full of logs, but my sanity has taken a hit. The place has bad vibes, evil flowers growing (yes they are literally called that way) and dudes trying to kill me. Part of the logs I use to build chests to stash rabbits. I catch them with traps set up around camp. I collected a good bunch of 'em and I got my logs. Ready for winter.

Winter is something else though. It's freezing out here, snow everywhere and I didn't manage to find the raw materials to make warm clothing in time. Luckily I found this thermal stone, which does cool down over time after I take it out of the fire, but allows me to go on short trips. I'm pretty optimistic though. I got my basic necessities covered, I'm just going to sit this through.

Then I notice my sanity meter: it's still on the decline and I'm starting to get a bit worried. I guess the coldness and dark, lonely nights are starting to get to me. It's effecting my perception of the world in creepy ways; strange sounds, voices, altered lighting, shadowy creatures appearing and disappearing, menacing eyes in the dark at night. It gets worse.

A shadow hand appears and extinguishes my campfire. Luckily I have a torch handy, or else it's game over right there, all this work undone. Later I find out I can swipe at it with my spear to keep it at a distance, but it's clear that the lower my sanity meter gets, the more I am presented with challenges that demand my attention, making tasks to cover my basic necessities harder to get done. And what happens if the meter reaches zero?

I'm presented with a really big blow when the rabbits start looking like black creatures, including the ones I stocked up on. When I cook them at the fire, it gets me monster meat which seriously brings down my sanity level. ****! I already burned through my berries, seeds and carrots. Rabbits is basically all the food I have left and now I cant' eat it!? Just a matter of time before I starve now. I could've cooked those damn rabbits beforehand, but with prepared food, expiration date comes into play and I wasn't sure how long winter would last.

I'm now frantically starting to think of ways to up my sanity. Cooked green mushrooms work wonders, but I have none and don't know where to find them. Assuming I can find some, I may have to venture off pretty far and the thing with that is, that's not really an option, my radius is limited. Picking and eating flowers helps (not the evil ones though), but none to be found in these harsh winter days. What else? What else…

Sleeping. Of course, sleeping! That will do me good. Just need to build a straw roll for that, but… I used up most of my twigs and straw I need for that on traps for the rabbits. Since I'm under increasing pressure now, facing one challenge after the other to stay alive, I suddenly regret not pressing harder during my leisurely strolls through the landscape in spring time collecting this stuff.

Ok, I need to go out and collect some more. I'm keeping an eye on how close I'm getting to night time to get back to camp in time. The cooling down of my thermal stone I don't follow so much. Not until my screen starts freezing up, I realize what is happening and get into panic mode trying to return to camp as quickly as possible. I manage to get enough of the straw and twigs and get a good night's rest. Crisis avoided… for now. The danger is still present, but at least I can breathe again.

Then suddenly, I hear these noises in the background. My character mentions them. It's the hounds. They come after me every once in a while and the packs gradually get bigger. I have not had any time to build a panic room with traps at the entrance. My strategy from the start has been to dash for the relatively nearby bison-like creatures called 'beefalo' (taken into account when I chose a location to set up camp), who kill them when attacked. However, beefalo get hostile during mating season, which happens to be now. After getting to the pack, being chased by mad hounds, fighting the odds of survival and thinking I'm saved, they decide to attack me.

And so I finally kick the bucket.



As a kid I was terrible at RTS games. I couldn't stand losing. Getting annihilated by another army, I'd just ragequit, or create unlosable scenarios. It was interesting to find myself, many years later, battling a game (and myself), rather than an opponent. And for the first time, I felt I was actually learning something.

Lessons I took away from this experience (which apply to life in general as well):

- Don't slack (too much) when you don't feel pressure or it can cost you down the road.
- Mistakes can accumulate over time, gradually putting you in tough spot.
- Unexpected things will happen.
- You can respond to demanding situations with an increase in focus, rather than an increase in stress.
- Creative thinking can lead to new solutions, so don't give up looking for them, even in the face of despair. 
- Plan ahead, but don't lose track of your immediate needs.
- You can always start over.

Props to the developers for making such a great game. One of the must-play indies on Wii U for me.

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And THAT, is precisely what a player's first experience of this game should be!  Foreboding, atmospheric, creepy, starts off okay but then suddenly EVERYHING HAPPENS AT ONCE OH GOD WHAT DO I DO...but...afterwards, you've _learned_ from it.  And you can go on to play again. And die again.  But later than the first time, and while learning more along the way...

And that's why I love this game. Evil, unforgiving harshness and all!  :)

(Although summer can seriously go (BLEEP) a (BLEEP) as far as I'm concerned.  ;))


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